by Lisa Jackson
Every so often I run into a romance novel I can't help liking, despite factors that should make it abhorrent to me on a basic level. I didn't like the first book in this two in one, so I didn't expect to find the second one any better. But, you know, it is better, even if the main character is named Tiffany (a name I just cannot take seriously). Let's get started.
This is another one published in 1984, but it's not as obvious. Tiffany is twenty-five and a widow. Zane is 36 and Irish. Thankfully, this book does not take place in Ireland, because I'm still pretty burned out on Ireland and the Irish in general. However, Zane's Irishness isn't in your face, in that no one talks about fairies for the entirety of the book. I have a feeling it's the first romance involving the Irish I've read for this blog where fairies didn't figure prominently. Yes, I am serious when I say that.
Tiffany Rhodes's horse farm was in trouble long before she met Zane Sheridan, a breeder with a shady reputation. Yet she couldn't help but feel relieved when Zane offered to buy her out. Though Tiffany didn't trust him, she was drawn to him like a magnet. What did this mysterious man want from her...and why was he using a gambit with her heart?
Anyhoo, Zane may not talk about fairies, but he is all hyped up on revenge. Apparently, long ago, back when he was much more trusting, Ellory Rhodes (Tiffany's dead husband) hustled him out of 200 grand. Ellory ran off and bought the Rhodes Breeding Farm with this money, leaving Zane to build himself back up the honest way so he could buy another farm in Ireland. Ellory got married to Tiffany, had some affair with this Stasia person on the side, and then died in a trailer accident that also killed the farm's Kentucky Derby hopeful, Devil's Gambit.
Since Zane is on a revenge kick, and since his original target died, he decides to act out this scenario on Tiffany. But when he gets to the farm he discovers that Tiffany is not a bitch, making his attempts to buy the farm and freak Tiffany out with his news that Devil's Gambit is not, in fact, dead, less satisfying. Add to this the farm's problems with a bunch of mares that are giving birth to dead or dying foals, and Tiffany has way more than she can handle. Zane, being Irish and a romance novel anti-hero (if that's possible?), decides to help her out with one of the foaling mares, and by the time the dead foal is born it's late and he has to spend the night. Tiffany is distraught, a perfect time for him to comfort her with sex, only this does not happen. I was confused by this development, but then I was able to rest assured when he declared he had to stay over for the night and, instead of sleeping in the guest room like he was supposed to, he pulls an Edward Cullen and decides to watch Tiffany sleep.
Of course, Zane is not a vampire with a sleep disorder, so he falls asleep in his chair and wakes up to a pissed off Tiffany. Around this point they discover their mutual attraction for each other and they have to separately muse to themselves about this astonishing, yet obviously predictable fact. Also around this point, Zane's, um, attraction to Tiffany happens to occur in his loins. This is another word that I hate. Just like the words slumber, Kevin and Steve. In this case loins pops up at least ten times. Maybe more. Loins are stirring and having conniptions all over the place, and it disturbed me greatly. I have a feeling this is because I immediately think of pork loin, and by the time I apply that word to a man and his issues I've already thought of pork and then I'm just disgusted. Sexy thoughts and loins just should not mix. Ever.
So Zane tells Tiffany his theory: that Ellory wanted to cash in on Devil's Gambit's insurance (for some reason) so he faked the crash (maybe he died, maybe he didn't) and then they shipped the horse to Ireland, where he took the place of another horse called King's Ransom and began to breed him under that horse's name. For some reason I can't remember, I admit. Maybe there was no reason. Anyway, Tiffany thinks all of this is insane, but she's got this whole foal problem to think about and then, before you know it, they're wrestling around on the floor only to stop because Zane is all "you'll hate me later" blah blah blah. Then he trots out of the house and goes on this manhunt for his ex-wife, Stasia, Ellory's girlfriend.
Are you confused yet? I almost am. Anyway, Zane comes back after discovering Stasia's hiding place. She tells him everything, including the fact that Ellory is indeed dead and that Devil's Gambit is alive and serving stud duty for this King's Ransom horse. Somehow. By this point, Tiffany has already seen Ellory's brother, Dustin, who just happens to own the farm that owns King's Ransom. Zane comes back, finally has sex with Tiffany out in the woods somewhere, and then they nearly get run over by the farm's famous stallion, who is off romping around. It comes out later that Dustin let the stallion out, and then everyone remembers that Dustin was on the farm when the mares were bred, explaining why their foals died. They presume he injected them with something or another, however that works I don't know.
Eventually it comes down to Dustin freaking out, Zane punching Dustin, Dustin being taken away, and Zane and Tiffany having their basic happy ending.
So I don't know. It held my attention, which is a plus. Zane calling Tiffany a "sweet lady" was way too much, not to mention the repeated mentions of Zane's loins was not so great. Ugh, it still creeps me out now. Then there's the suspense plotline regarding the horse, and while it might be pretty improbable, I still have to give it points for keeping me interested. And it gets points for not having the male character support and comfort the exhausted/traumatized female character with spontaneous and unsafe sex. Not to say the rest of it was safe, because rest assured it wasn't, but you know. Whatever.